The commander of the US military’s Southern Command told his country’s Congress on Thursday that the American military is only able to intercept 20% of drug shipments from Colombia due to a lack of funds.
General John Kelly told the Senate Armed Service Committee that the alleged lack of resources to combat drug trafficking force the general and his men to “sit and watch it go by.”
Kelly said that the Southern Command has “very good clarity” on who is trafficking the illicit drugs from Colombia northward, but in 80% of the cases “I simply sit and watch it go by. And because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief in terms of assets to work with in this region of the world.”
“We’ve accomplished a lot, even in these days when I have very, very few forces assigned and very, very limited resources to work with,” added the military official.
The US army commander said he would be able to interdict more drugs if he had 16 ships that could be used as the base for helicopters. Currently, said Kelly, he has one US Navy ship and two Coast Guard vessels that can be used for the drug operations.
An increase in ships is essential for the US to meet its goal to intercept at least 40% of drugs sent from Latin America, claimed the general.
At the same time, Kelly warned that a further reduction of funds for the Southern Command would affect the US’ relationship with its Latin American partners.
“The cumulative impact of Southcom’s reduced engagement won’t be measured in the number of canceled activities and reduced deployments. Rather, he explained, it will be measured in terms of lost U.S. influence, leadership and relationships in a part of the world where U.S. engagement has made a real and lasting difference over the decades,” said the Southern Command website.
In Colombia, the Southern Command works together with the Colombian military to counter drug trafficking and left-wing guerrilla groups like the FARC.